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World Series off-day: McCullers interview

October 26, 2017

Q. No. 1, what do you think about the roof being closed? And No. 2, you knew you were going to start tomorrow, what do you think about getting the start tomorrow in the wake of what happened last night? LANCE MCCULLERS JR.: Last night was a pretty special game.

Q. No. 1, what do you think about the roof being closed? And No. 2, you knew you were going to start tomorrow, what do you think about getting the start tomorrow in the wake of what happened last night?
LANCE MCCULLERS JR.: Last night was a pretty special game. Not only the first win for the Astros in World Series history, but just the way that it happened. I think that the way it happened. Our guys showed a lot of heart. Showed we were a relentless group. So hats off to them and they were swinging the bats, and the guys coming in doing their job. But I'm excited. I feel really good. And I just have to continue to stick with my plan and stay in the moment.
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Q. All you guys like the idea that the roof is going to be closed, why is that?
LANCE MCCULLERS JR.: That's how we play most of the games here. We're very used to it. I definitely think it's part of our home-field advantage. That's how we play almost -- we play like 60 or more like that. So we're very accustomed to it, which is I think why a lot of the guys want it to stay the same.
Q. What is it about your personality that lends itself to these kind of situations?
LANCE MCCULLERS JR.: I just think that I go out there and I stay on the attack. This is a very, very talented group that I'll be facing tomorrow. They can really swing it. And as you guys saw the last couple of fights, even the first night, we lost 3-1, it was still a really, really good game. One swing of the bat was the difference. For me, I'm very confident in myself. Very confident in the game plan we all put together, and have a lot of faith in my defense, and especially Brian McCann back there. Just makes it a lot easier on me to see him, and just focus on doing what I have to do to help the team win.
Q. Rich Hill led in percentage of curveballs thrown last year, you took the torch from him, so to speak, this year. I wonder if you ever looked at him as a role model, as somebody that can throw the pitch that often and get away with it, or did you get there independently?
LANCE MCCULLERS JR.: No, I think Rich obviously is a very talented pitcher. His story is awesome, especially what he's overcome and how he came back. I got to see him pitch against us a couple of times when he was in Oakland. But, yeah, you look at a lot of guys who have success throwing the breaking balls and just all those guys kind of pulling together. But for me it's been kind of an experience to get here to get where I am. My first year in the league I think I almost threw close to -- I only threw about 32 percent breaking balls my first year here. But as time moved on I've learned to pitch better with that pitch. Obviously the numbers have climbed. But I don't view it as an off-speed pitch. I just view it as another one of my weapons that I can use to get people out. And if I have to throw it a lot, if I don't throw it that much, which there are games that I don't, then I don't.

Q. In your last outing, how did you fall into that pattern of throwing two dozen straight curveballs? Was it anything you thought in advance?
LANCE MCCULLERS JR.: The Yankees found themselves -- we were at home, obviously, the crowd was rocking. I think they started kind of feeling the momentum shifted to our side in the 7th, 8th and 9th inning. I could tell they were pressing a little bit. As I was throwing curveballs and I was reading the swings, for me it was just, I'm not really going to make an adjustment until they do. It would have been the same thing if I threw a lot of fastballs or a lot of change-ups. The old saying of, don't fix it if it ain't broke or something like that. I just kind of got in the groove and felt like it was working, which is kind of the pitch after pitch was the same thing.
Q. Did you ever do that before?
LANCE MCCULLERS JR.: I don't know. I'm sure somewhere in high school I probably threw like 24 fastballs in a row. I know it's like a big deal, I guess, to people who look at the numbers, because I guess it's never been done, but I think it was just situational and what those moments -- what we were heading toward, which was clinching for the World Series, some pressure was being put on those guys to try to make something happened. I think that's why it went the way it did.
Q. With the Astros in the World Series a lot of people are reminiscing on how much they love those rainbow jerseys. I know you pitched in them this year. I was wondering what are your thoughts on them, how do you feel on how much they're beloved?
LANCE MCCULLERS JR.: Are we wearing them?
Q. No, just people are talking about them.
LANCE MCCULLERS JR.: That's an iconic jersey for us, for the Astros organization. Nolan, Scott, a lot of guys when you think of Astros baseball, you think of those guys, and that jersey. So it's pretty iconic for us. I pitched in them in Seattle. I love the look. I would maybe change some things about the way they fit. But, yeah, I think our colors now represent more of the iconic Astro kind of look. But the rainbows are something that I think will forever be associated with the Astro organization, because it should be. They're a great look and fans love them.
Q. One more curveball question: It's a unique pitch. When did you learn that grip, who taught it to you, the history of it?
LANCE MCCULLERS JR.: Yeah, I didn't pitch very much growing up. I really started pitching more my junior year of high school. Geoff Goetz, our pitching coach, he was actually a top pick in the '97 draft. We have similar size, similar build. He was explaining to me how he threw the curveball. I was messing around with the grip he used, and then I came about with the way I throw it now. I was probably 16 or 17 before I really started throwing the pitch a lot. And the way I throw it, the way I grew up kind of learning how to pitch with my father and my pitching coach in Florida was to throw every pitch the same as a fastball, not to manipulate your wrists or to do anything different with your hand positioning, as you would a fastball. Since the idea or the thought is that fastballs are the least hurtful for your arm, which is why I think my arm doesn't give me any fits when I throw a lot of breaking balls because I'm not doing anything too much different with my mechanics.
Q. Can you just describe a little bit what the mood was like after Hurricane Harvey in the clubhouse? And two months plus or so later you're now in the World Series, kind of describe the elevation for the ballclub?
LANCE MCCULLERS JR.: We had a really great team going into the season. And these fans behind us from the very start. But when that happened, we were actually in Los Angeles playing the Angels when it happened. And my wife was actually here in our home. It was very tough -- and a lot of guys, their wives were here, their families were here, kids. It was very tough for us to be away. In those difficult days, we wanted to come home. We wanted to see our families, make sure everything was okay. We wanted to help the city of Houston as much as we could. I think the unique part about our group is that everyone really -- during that time genuinely just wanted to do what they could to help the city, whether it was going to see people and trying to lift their spirits or whether guys were doing their own things with other kind of endeavors that we do off the field, with foundations or Dallas and I saw first responders during those days. We just wanted to get back here and show the city how much we love them and care about them. It kind of became something that where we rallied around. We still have pictures hanging in our lockers. It's still something we think about, because people here are hard-working people, and they went through something that a lot of people can't understand. A lot of people lost everything. So for us to be able to just play baseball for a couple of hours and for those people to be able to have a little bit of joy, to get away from what they were having to go through is pretty special, to be able to give that to them.